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The art and craft of pen and ink
See the world through an artist's eyes
Learn to draw, develop skills, improve and share your journey

this project is free for you to join
give it a go, there is absolutely nothing to lose
all you need is a pen and paper

we have a private Facebook Page and WhatsApp group
contact me to be considered for these groups


Welcome to ‘The Pen & Ink Project’.

Just to limber up, try copying the logo above freehand using any pen on any old scrap of paper. Use a pencil first if you like, then overwrite with the pen.

Keep it as smooth and free-flowing as possible. This is probably more difficult than you think.

You might then like to have a go at the logo turned upside-down. If that’s not enough sideways too.

Another thing you might like to try is copying your own signature, but upside down. Sign as usual then flip the paper upside down and copy. Turn it back the right way round to view the result.

It's all to get you observing and drawing what you see. Get that pen moving and remember - it knows when you are scared of it!

It isn’t essential to have specialist paper and pens, however if and when you buy I would recommend 'Staedtler pigment liner’ or ‘Unipin fine liner’. They come in sets (usually 4 pens) of varying thicknesses. The ink won’t fade and is waterproof. If you google the names you’ll find them online or go to any art shop. Any good quality drawing or cartridge paper will do. You might like to get a sketchbook.

If you are a traditionalist you might like a dip-in drawing pen and a bottle of ink. These give a more characterful line of varying thickness depending on the pressure applied.

Have a go with a fountain pen if you’ve got one.

Have fun!

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Here is an arrangement of simple ordinary objects.

The point of drawing them is to help understand how different light sources show off basic forms: cubes, cones, spheres and cylinders and variations. Draw them in pen to get the hang of which direction to draw lines to describe the form with speed and minimum marks.

These objects are really no different to buildings and a city skyline.

You could make your own ‘still life’ arrangement using the contents of a cupboard.

Notice how different light sources change the appearance of the objects. Do this with a table lamp or even a torch.

A tin of beans is a cylinder, an oxo cube is literally a cube, an orange is a sphere, a Cornetto is a cone but maybe not the best choice of still life subject!

Omit the surface decoration. This is a study not a pretty picture to hang in a frame.

You’ll start noticing that a building is basically a box with a pyramid for a roof. The dome of the Duomo in Florence is just an egg. A tree trunk is a cylinder. The moon is a sphere, etc.

(In some ways I prefer the middle version of my drawing).

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You can do all these suggestions whenever you like or not at all.

Have a go at drawing anything when you’ve got a spare 5 minutes. Nobody needs to see it. It’ll take your mind off things.

If you’re not sure which direction to go in with your pen-marks here are a few different ways of drawing a cube, a sphere and a cone. There are many different ways of doing this. Persevere and you will find your style.

These are drawn on run of the mill office paper with an 02 size pen.

For the sphere I drew round a 2 pence piece with a pencil first. Just for fun have a go at drawing a circle completely freehand.
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Bear in mind basic perspective. You might remember doing this at school!

By the way the bowl is just a hollow sphere cut in half.
The next one shows how an apple is basically a sphere with a stalk and a pear is a sphere merging with a cone. Looking at things this way will help you to draw them. Before you know it you’ll be drawing the entire fruit bowl.

By the way the bowl is just a hollow sphere cut in half. next one shows how an apple is basically a sphere with a stalk and a pear is a sphere merging with a cone. Looking at things this way will help you to draw them. Before you know it you’ll be drawing the entire fruit bowl.
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One of my sketchers sent me these impressive drawings of his own arrangements of objects. It looks like they're done in pencil which is a bit different to a pen, but who cares. He has used a pen and ink technique with the added advantage of being able to vary the density of his lines by applying different pressures.

A similar effect can be achieved using different thicknesses of pen. If you use fine pens for the background and work up to a thicker pen for the foreground it will help to create an illusion of depth.

Notice the interesting light source from behind the objects a bit to the left.
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"My first attempt at dawdling. Perhaps if I had drawn the table, the dubious looking shading may not look as naff!”

I think the spell check meant ‘doodling’, or perhaps it took longer than expected to draw.

It’s a good first effort and this subject throws up some interesting things.

When I look at the planter I see a tapered cylinder. That’s a cylinder which is wider at one end than the other. I suppose it’s part way to becoming a cone.

The raised decorative circles on the planter appear more oval (or elliptical) as they reach the edge.

The feet are themselves are little tapered cylinders.

And it’s worth having a close look at the leaf shape before you start drawing. It wouldn’t be practical with this plant (is it an aloe vera?) but I would normally pick a single leaf and look at it from different angles.

Remember it’s a cylinder or variation when you draw a plant pot, coffee mug, telegraph pole or even somebodies neck.

Keep doodling!


Rosalie posted this on our WhatsApp group:

"Monday morning and I thought this would be easy,

Not so”

I asked if she minded with me talking about this. I’m not criticising, just trying to help everyone.

On the whole this is a good drawing. The top is the most difficult bit and that’s very accurate.

Putting the images side by side like this you probably think it’s easy to see the differences.
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So when I look at this what do I see?

A jug?

For the purpose of drawing I’ll forget about the colour and the shiny surface.

The height is the same as the width.

You will have seen artists holding a pencil at arms length and sizing their subject up with one eye closed. By this method proportions can be compared.

Because the height and the width are the same the outline of this jug will fit exactly into a square (or a circle).

Realising this makes the drawing a lot easier to construct.

With the pen I’m not copying exactly what I see, but creating a kind of 3 dimensional illusion.

I notice that the main light is coming from the front right, although the overall lighting is a bit diffused. A single light source may have been better.

So wouldn’t it be easier to buy a projector, or print a photo of the jug and just trace it?

Well yes but I want you to see this wonderful world through an artist’s eyes.
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So there you have it…

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Who cares how a drawing or painting is achieved - isn’t the only thing that matters the result?

“A picture is something which requires as much knavery, trickery and deceit as the perpetration of a crime.” EDGAR DEGAS

Is there any such thing as cheating at drawing?

Well, if so we better disregard the drawings and paintings of Leonardo, Vermeer and Canaletto for a start. They all used a 'camera obscura’. Google it if you are interested.

Artists have been at it since the Renaissance.
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Had they had iPhones and computers they would have used them. Michelangelo would have used a projector for the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

So I don’t feel guilty now in telling you that I sometimes trace directly from my computer screen.

Even Van Gogh used a frame with wires stretched across it.

And squaring up a drawing has been used for a long time.
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Here’s me and Laurent drawing alongside each other. Laurent is studying architecture at Sheffield University and coming to me occasionally for drawing tuition. His ‘site’ for study is Kelham Island. Here are our drawings completed in 2 hours. We did however (after all I’ve said) start with a traced outline.
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However you get your image onto paper, it really helps to be able to draw and understand what you are doing.

The trouble is (as with everything else) the more you know, the more you realise there’s even more that you don’t know.

Freehand drawings have character and soul like the artist who drew them.

Even starting with a traced outline, you still have to know what to draw and what to leave out.

Tracing isn’t cheating. But learn how to draw - don't cheat yourself out of something wonderful.

Here's one of my drawings of Wortley.

It’s a view from Finkle Street looking back up towards the village.
This was drawn from a photograph without tracing or drawing in pencil first. I just went for it. This might not result in complete accuracy, but somehow for me it seems to work.
It’s quite a simple technique really.

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The windows are just rectangles divided by panes of glass..
If you look at the house on the right, the diagram shows how I see buildings as variations of cubes etc.
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When I draw trees I bear in mind Leonardo’s rule of trees:

"all the branches of a tree at every stage of its height when put together are equal in thickness to the trunk." In other words, if a tree’s branches were folded upward and squeezed together, the tree would look like one big trunk with the same thickness from top to bottom.
It helps to understand how branches taper towards the top.
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I suppose the trees are rather complicated but it is possible to learn how to draw them. Spend some time looking at branches. Pick one out from its base and notice how it keeps dividing until it becomes twigs. Hopefully this will be therapeutic rather than mind-boggling!
This is a view from Wortley Churchyard.
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It helps to understand branches even if you are drawing them covered in leaves.
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And a close-up...
Here’s an historic oak tree in the grounds of Wortley Hall which is kind of half in leaf with old age.
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That’s just how it comes out of my pen.
Your style will be different.
The closer in you zoom the more it looks like scribble.